Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Committed Love

Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
John 15:13

At five-thirty a.m. this morning, my husband's alarm went off. Every weekday, that is what gets him out of bed. His wife, however, can quite happily sleep through that electronic nuisance. I was awakened as well, but my wake-up call was much nicer to listen to. "Sweetie, I hate to wake you, but I need you to help me with this bandage ..."

I am so thankful that my hubby is not as accident-prone as I am! On those rare occasions when he does get hurt, however, he seems to posses an amazing knack for awkwardly-placed (usually minor, thank goodness) injuries. If he cuts his hand at work, it will most likely be on a knuckle; testing the stick-ability of any adhesive bandage and taking forever to heal. His latest misfortune happened while training for his second Mt. Rainer summit. When you train to climb a mountain, blisters on your feet are going to happen. In my husband's case, however, they only take place in awkward, painful spots. While he usually tries to tend to all that icky stuff himself (he knows his wife is utterly disgusted by both blood and feet), properly protecting the under-backside of one's pinkie toe would most likely require double-jointed knees and ankles! Seeing as how my husband is not a trained contortionist and I am very skilled at going back to sleep for one more precious hour, I didn't mind helping him for a few minutes. :)

As I carefully wrapped the bandage, I told my hubby I'd just woken up from a dream about him. Knowing that my dreams are often bizarre, he tentatively asked if it was a good dream. I told him yes, it was about back when we were sweethearts. Pulling up his second sock, he replied, "But honey, we're STILL sweethearts!"

Enamoured by his statement, I agreed, but clarified that we weren't just sweethearts anymore-- we were also the best of friends. My hubby and I still hold hands most everywhere we go, but we have a whole lot more in our lives now than movie dates and picnics.

From our first date on, I wanted to marry Alan. That, dear readers, is not even close to committing. A desire to love and care for someone feels wonderful ... but it stops at feelings. I do not doubt that we loved one another before we got married, but with commitment comes a deeper level of love; a love that lasts. You can make googley eyes at a cute boy while sharing a sundae when you're in love, but committed love will touch a yucky toe in lieu of sleeping. A young man can write the girl of his dreams a love poem, but committed love goes beyond words and rocks a colicky baby, so his mother can sleep. A girl in love will spend hours on her hair before a date. A woman with committed love hunts down haircut coupons to stay on the family budget. When I was in love with my sweetheart, he bought me a teddy bear. After he became my husband, he bought me pepper spray to fend off a REAL bear visiting our neighborhood! Lasting love goes beyond words and feelings and ACTS.

Genuine, committed love also remains loyal when it doesn't "feel" wonderful. It wants the best for the other person. Infatuation fades when people don't get what they want out of the situation anymore. When the emotional highs dissipate, there is no payoff. This can happen in many relationships-- not just those of a romantic nature. We see a drastic change of heart from many who were once enthralled with Jesus. My, how things changed from Sunday to Friday ...

On Palm Sunday, they cried out, "Hosanna!" (meaning, "Save us now!") and welcomed him as their King. They saw this great miracle worker feeding thousands of people with a just a kid's lunch, raising the dead and speaking up against those in power. They saw a man who would solve all their problems. Surely, a man with this kind of power and authority could over-throw the Romans, bring them prosperity, peace and a life of comfort. As a hurting people in bondage to the Roman empire, they longed for their messiah to come and make things "right." When Jesus did not fulfill their expectations, they wanted nothing more to do with him. In fact, they wanted him dead.

There were others who truly did love Jesus, but they were not yet committed. Judas usually comes to mind, because he carried out his plan to betray Jesus for money. He was riddled with regret later, because he loved Jesus. But love without commitment will not last. Peter had every intention of standing with Jesus, regardless of the cost. He vehemently pledged his allegiance to Jesus and said he would die for Him. He truly did feel that way. However, when his convictions were tested, Peter crumbled under the pressure three times. All his followers scattered that day, afraid of what was to come. All but Judas would have the opportunity to go beyond affection into commitment after Jesus was resurrected, and there was a special reason why ...

From Sunday to Friday, only One never faltered, doubted or fled-- and He knew more than anyone else why commitment would be so difficult. As He cried out in anguish in the garden, He did not succumb to self-preservation. As the sins of all mankind were heaped upon him, He did not waver. As the people He suffered for mocked him, He forgave them. There is no greater example of committed love than Jesus Christ's sacrifice in our place.

If the story ended there, we would have Jesus' example to teach us how to truly love with commitment and no way to carry it out. But thanks be to God, this story does NOT end on a Friday! We know where the disciples' commitment came from. We know that we share in that same incredible gift, because of what Jesus has done for us!

Father, how I long for the rejoicing of Easter! I want to skip past the pain and suffering of the cross, but I know that without death, there is no resurrection. As I remember Your incredible sacrifice, I thank you for the hope that is to come!

Awaiting Alleluia,

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